Fake Italian:

An 83% True Autobiography with Pseudonyms and Some Tall Tales

Fiction. Italian & Italian American Studies.


New York, 1987: In a city torn apart by racial tension, Damien Cavalieri is an adolescent without a tribe. His mother—who pines for the 1950s Brooklyn Italian community she grew up in—fears he lacks commitment to his heritage. Damien's fellow Staten Islanders agree, dubbing him a "fake Italian" and bullying him for being artistic. Complicating matters, his efforts to make friends and date girls outside of the Italian community are thwarted time and again by circumstances beyond his control. When a tragic accident shakes Damien to his core, he begins a journey of self-discovery that will lead him to Italy, where he will learn, once and for all, who he really is.

"If Lenny Bruce had stolen a time machine, kidnapped the young James Joyce, and trained him in a Staten Island dojo circa 1975, the result would be this portrait of the artist as a fake Italian boy." 

—ANTHONY LIOI, Nerd Ecology: Defending the Earth with Unpopular Culture 


"This coming-of-age story chronicles the relevance of pop culture in the process of personal evolution. Fake Italian positions film and television productions — from Jaws to Doctor Who to Dracula AD 1972 — as the catalysts, not merely for sanity, but as the roadmap for self-improvement. In doing so, DiPaolo reminds us of the role that art has played in our own lives." 

—JOHN KENNETH MUIR, The House Between, Horror Films of the 1970s, and Best in Show: The Films of Christopher Guest and Company